SEO content writing has come a long way since the days of mindless keyword stuffing and link spamming. Search algorithms have become more sophisticated and, as a result, relevant, useful and well-written content that has been created for real people, not bots, is increasingly being rewarded.
In addition to composing engaging content that offers value to your reader, producing content that’s unique is another important factor if you want your content to be recognised favourably by Google. When it comes to duplicate content search engines are actually working in your favour – trying their best to keep your ranking and your readers satisfied. Read on to find out more.
What is duplicate content?
In simple terms, duplicate content is content such as blog posts or web page copy that can be found in multiple places on the internet – this could be within the same website or across multiple sites. The copy could match exactly or be similar, for example where a sentence has been copied and pasted from another site but some of the words have been removed or changed.
Why is duplicate content bad?
From an ethical point of view, copying someone’s work and reposting it as your own is questionable. However, this is something that has become ubiquitous in today’s digital world with the proliferation of anonymous content online.
The main reason that most website moderators want to avoid posting duplicate content search engines will spot is that it can negatively impact a page’s ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Why search engines find duplicate content confusing
– Conflicting signals – It can be unclear which version or versions of the content to index.
– Which search term? – A predicament occurs when deciding on the version/versions of the content to rank for relevant search queries.
– Dividing metrics – It can be hard to know whether to deliver link metrics such as trust, authority and link equity to a single page or split them between the different variants.
Do search engines have a penalty for duplicate content?
Google does not directly penalise sites for duplicate content, however, it views it unfavourably and as a result site traffic and rankings can be compromised.
To provide a good search experience for users, Google will avoid showing similar content or multiple versions of the same copy in the SERP. This means that if you decide to use the same copy on all your product pages and category pages, it is unlikely that they will rank. This is because the algorithm will make a choice between the lot and choose only one or a couple of these results to offer to the person making the search query.
How to avoid creating duplicate content search engines will demote
As a copywriter, this is pretty simple, don’t plagiarise! However, sometimes in the quest for conformity across a site the lines can get a little blurry.
For example, when creating a set of product pages for similar products, you might think that it makes sense to use the same headings in order to keep the structure uniform and ‘on brand’, but by doing this you are essentially repeating copy and producing content that is similar.
The same goes for call-to-actions and standardised safety guidelines or terms and conditions. If you are copying and pasting the same copy onto multiple pages you are essentially creating large chunks of duplicate content.
Avoid content that has been copied
As a copywriter, it is your responsibility to write original content. Further to this, website moderators and content editors can use tools such as Copyscape to highlight where content has been reused.
Get to know your CMS
If you have created your own website, then getting to know your content management system well is essential. Some e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Magento can automatically duplicate content across your site. Take your time to have a look around all of the different parts of the site – it’s essential to check that you have optimised all of your content so that it’s unique.
Another thing to watch out for is automatically generated snippets and meta descriptions. Each of your meta descriptions should be different. Printer-friendly pages are another cause of duplicate content, which you need to be aware of.
Use the canonical link element
Sometimes, you may want to keep duplicate pages for a specific reason. Say, for example, you are creating a cookery blog and you want readers to be able to easily print out your recipes in a format that looks professional. In the case of printer-friendly pages, they have a separate URL but the same content and will cause duplicate content issues. One thing that you can do to get around this is to use the canonical link element.
When you have multiple versions of the same content, you can choose the ‘canonical’ or main version and direct search engines towards it by using the link element HTML. To do so, the canonical tag is included in the section of the non-canonical or secondary page.
For example, in the below example, the canonical tag is showing the search engine that this page should be treated as a duplicate of the specified URL.
You can find out more about how to use the canonical link element in this useful guide by Yoast.
Be mindful of multiple URLs for the same page
In some cases, a URL system may create multiple pages consisting of the same content, for example when using link tracking software. This isn’t something you really need to worry about as a copywriter.
If you create multiple URLs for the same website this can also cause duplicate content problems. For example, if you create the site ‘www.creativecopywriting.com’ and ‘creativecopywriting.com’ this could create duplicate content search engines will detect. The same issue can arise with the URL protocols HTTP and HTTPS.
If you really want to make sure that you’re doing things right, we recommend that you look at these tips from Google on how to address duplicate content issues.
That’s a wrap!
We hope that you’ve found this guide useful and easy to digest. As a copywriter, you don’t need to get too bogged down with the technical side of things. When it comes to duplicate content and search engines, the moral of the story is don’t plagiarise and always try to put your unique spin on any information. If you are new to SEO copywriting and want to get your basics in check, why not take a look at this blog writing tutorial for beginners?
Or if you’d rather leave the content production to the experts, place your order with a freelance SEO writer at Copify now.